Jewish World Review Dec. 19, 2001 / 4 Teves, 5762
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- RECOVERED from the rubble of Sept. 11 is an age-old truth: There is nothing intrinsically fair about being even-handed. That is, there may well be two sides to every story, but one of them is usually wrong.
This point of view, long considered overly simplistic (if not insufficiently complex), snapped into focus even before the dust of the terrorist attacks had cleared. Americans, burying their dead, knew with unshakable certainty that Osama bin Laden and his global gang were "evildoers," as President Bush almost chivalrously dubbed them, and failed to flinch when U.S. officials spoke with antique bluntness of "rooting them out" and even "killing" them. As President Bush said, "You're either with or you're against us" -- and that's been fine by us.
Maybe this change isn't so remarkable. After all, neutrality has got to be the first casualty in an attack. (Unless, of course, you're a Brit journalist of the loquacious left, like the Independent's Robert Fisk, who needed 2,500 words to describe his own very bloody, very near-death experience at the hands of an Afghan mob as a well-deserved act of retribution against the West. But his, so far, is an exception.) What's more astonishing in our age of cultural relativism and reflexive political correction is that this newfound perspective has not only held steady, but it has grown sharper and more widespread.
A clarity now extends to such blurry bastions of moral equivalence as the State Department and the European Union, taking in not only the war in Afghanistan, but, mirabile dictu, the war in the Middle East. No more (at least for the time being) do State Department spokesmen try to erase the indelible parallels between Israel's war on Hamas and America's war on Al Qaeda -- whose abandoned caves at Tora Bora, for what it's worth, are decorated with pin-ups of Palestinian militants, not Betty Grable in a burka. And no longer (for the moment, anyway) does the European Union tilt toward the Palestinians. Just last week, after the Israeli government declared that the Palestinian Authority is a "terrorist-supporting entity" amid the worst terrorist attacks in Israeli history, the European Union leaned very publicly and very heavily on Yasser Arafat. For the first time, the Europeans called on the Palestinian Authority to dismantle "Hamas' and Islamic Jihad's terrorist networks" and make "a public appeal in Arabic for an end to the armed intifada."
This demand is big stuff. While the European Union also repeated its calls on Israel to halt military actions, settlement activity and restrictions on the Palestinians, the onus of this dramatic declaration was on Arafat. Diplomatic bromides to the contrary, the European Union has effectively taken sides. As the leading backer of the Palestinian Authority, forking over $160 million annually, the European Union isn't just another bunch of bureaucrats. Its words might not be cheap.
It's beginning to look as if taking sides is in. But not everywhere. When United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan accepted his Nobel Peace Prize last week -- so richly merited, given the peace busting out all over -- he chose to portray the world as a blur of gray. Even as people the world over are divided by things as basic as the meaning of terrorism, Annan went on about the "indivisibility of humanity" -- an impressive, if meaningless, mouthful. As countries struggle in the aftermath of Sept. 11 with urgent, new questions about the demands and responsibilities of nationhood and citizenship, Annan nattered on about "today's real borders [being] not between nations, but between powerful and powerless, free and fettered, privileged and humiliated." He went on to say: "New threats make no distinction between races, nations or regions." Oh yeah? Try that one out on people who live in New York or Jerusalem. Maybe such blather is a leftover luxury of peacetime. Wartime demands the kind of consistent clarity George W. Bush has projected -- and thank goodness -- to inspire people to do what's right and stick with it. It's hard to imagine someone as completely uncentered as Bill Clinton as having been up to the task.
What happened to that late-20th-century ideal of life in a detached bubble of supposedly perfect objectivity? Looks as if it's been popped by the prick of a lapel-pin flag. Good guys and bad guys have returned, neatly side-stepping the swampy limbo of gray for the resolute action of black and white. While the future is uncertain, moral equivalence seems to have gone the way of the bustle, if not the burka -- at least for a little
JWR contributor Diana West is a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.